How to Deal With Conflict in the Workplace

Resolve workplace conflict through open and honest communication.

Resolve workplace conflict through open and honest communication.

Left unchecked, workplace conflict can damage every aspect of an organization, from employee morale to customer service. To deal with conflict, you must determine what factors caused it and how you can resolve it in a way that benefits everyone involved and ensures smoother relationships going forward.

Instead of getting alarmed when you or others in your workplace encounter conflict, view it as an inevitable result of a diverse group of people attempting to work together. Personalities will clash and motives will conflict, so approach it as you would any occupational hazard. It will be easier for you to keep your cool and devise practical solutions that everyone can support.

Not every conflict requires drastic or immediate action, so choose your battles wisely. Don't waste time and energy on a minor difference of opinion with a colleague that won't matter once you finish the project you're collaborating on. However, if the conflict interferes with your ability to work, address it before your job performance suffers. If you're a manager and you see conflict eroding workplace morale or impeding productivity, step in sooner rather than later to prevent an isolated incident from leading to ongoing conflict.

Focus on issues, not personalities. The conflict will only worsen if you take the conflict to a personal level, by criticizing others or saying "She always does that" or "She never does this." Instead, define the underlying problem. Address obstacles within the workplace culture that make it difficult for people to compromise. Emphasize how the conflict harms the company and other employees, for example by damaging customer service or causing a decline in the quality of goods and services offered.

Understand the motivations of everyone involved before you take action. What at first may seem like one person behaving rudely or stubbornly may be the result of communication problems, cultural differences or even insecurity. Put yourself in the other person's shoes to determine her needs and motivations, then work to devise a solution that helps everyone meet their goals.

Encourage the parties in conflict to communicate, preferably face-to-face. Minor disagreements frequently lead to major conflict simply because people aren't willing or don't know how to communicate. As their anger or frustration simmers, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to work together. If you can bring them together to air their grievances, you can better determine what it will take to resolve the conflict. If you're a supervisor, you can require employees to sit down together. If you're embroiled in conflict with a colleague, it may be more difficult to persuade her to communicate openly. Describe the advantages of resolving the conflict; if all else fails, ask your supervisor to call a meeting.

 

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